POCATELLO, Idaho – The UTEP volleyball team knocked off host Idaho State, 3-0 (25-16, 26-24, 25-19) to win the 2021 Bengal Invitational Saturday evening and secure its first tournament crown in 10 years.
With their third victory in two days the Miners move to 3-0 on the season, marking their best start since ripping off eight straight out of the gates in 2011.
UTEP’s Yasso Amin, Alianza Darley and Kristen Fritsche were named to the All-Tournament team, with Amin landing MVP honors.
“Coming home with the tournament victory for the first time in 10 years is pretty cool,” Wallis said. “We were the more physical and better volleyball team this weekend. Once again, we were better offensively than defensively, but we’re going to keep working at it and get better there.”
UTEP hit .366 in the match, including .447 in the first set. Darley and Amin led the ways with nine kills each, but Paulina Perez Rosas (six), Serena Patterson (five), Ema Uskokovic (five) and Vittoria Price (five) all got after it as well.
“To only have nine hitting errors in three sets is a big freaking deal,” Wallis said. “We didn’t have any in the first set when we had 17 kills. Offensively that’s awesome. We got Yasso (Amin) working better tonight.”
The Miners recorded seven blocks, including two big ones to stave off set point and fuel a late rally in the second set. UTEP piled up 43 digs, with Alyssa Sianez tallying a match-high 16. Patterson showed off her versatility with nine, while Perez Rosas recorded seven.
Fritsche led all players on the court with 21 assists, with freshman Ryley Frye being credited with 10 assists. The Miners also had 11 service aces, including four from Amin and three by Patterson. Frye and Fritsche each had two.
“I was proud of the effort with Hande (Yetis) being out with the injury and freshman Ryley Frye with no experience having to operate a college volleyball game against a Big Sky team in their home gym,” Wallis said. “It was a primetime match-up on ESPN+, and she worked and performed admirably considering the pressure she was under.”
It was back-and-forth action through the early stages of the first set. With UTEP leading, 13-11, it went on a mini 4-1 push to go out by five (17-12). ISU trimmed it to three (19-16), but the Miners didn’t waver and scored the final six points of the set to close it out at 25-16. Darley had back-to-back kills in the sequence.
UTEP scored four of the first five points in the second set to grab the early advantage (4-1). Homestanding ISU struck back in the form of a 9-3 run to go up, 10-7, and prompt a UTEP timeout. It paid dividends with the Orange and Blue peeling off a 7-2 surge to surge back ahead at 14-12.
The Bengals regrouped and roared into the lead at 21-19. That led to a set point at 24-23 for ISU but the Miners tallied three straight points to rally for the set win at 26-23. Amin and Darley started it with an assisted block to stave off set point. Uskokovic then had a solo block to make it 25-24 UTEP.
Perez Rosas capped things with the kill to put UTEP up 2-0 in the match.
Idaho State jumped out at 5-3 in the third set before UTEP pulled even at 5-5, 9-9 and again at 11-11. Patterson changed that with back-to-back aces, sparking a 4-0 scoring run to give the Miners their first lead (14-11) of the set.
As it turned out, they would never relinquish the advantage on the way to closing out the set and match at 25-19. A key sequence was back-to-back aces from Amin on the heels of an ISU timeout.
UTEP returns to action as it co-hosts the Borderland Invitational with NM State Sept. 3, 5. The Miners face Pac 12 foe Arizona in Las Cruces at 12:30 p.m. MT Friday (Sept. 3) before hosting Big 10 member Northwestern at 7 p.m. MT (Sept. 3) in their home opener.
Tickets are $8 and can be purchased through the Eisenberg Family Ticket Office by calling (915) 747-UTEP, firstname.lastname@example.org, going online or in person at 201 Glory Road (Brumbelow Building, UTEP campus) Monday thru Friday from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Season tickets are also still on sale. Group tickets are also available for $5 (minimum of 10 tickets).
“This weekend we were trying to prepare to face bigger, more physical teams,” Wallis said. “It helped us get ready for where we’ve got to play a Big 10 opponent, a Pac 12 opponent and perennially the best team in the WAC.”